By Sandra E. Garcia
They hope to fight the thriving black markets for illegally logged timber.
Forests are disappearing. Maps show shrinking woodlands all over the world. Even trees coveted for their wood that are protected from logging are chopped down.
Worried about such deforestation, environmental advocates are driving a project to create a DNA database of populations of the bigleaf maple tree on the West Coast. The eventual goal is to use DNA mapping to combat the thriving black markets for timber in tropical countries that are plagued by illegal logging.
“We are taking leaf tissue from the maple trees and taking samples along the entire length of the species range from Southern California to British Columbia,” said Meaghan Parker-Forney, a science officer with the World Resources Institute, a nonprofit group that promotes environmental sustainability and is working on the monthslong initiative.
The DNA database is an experimental project for the Norwegian government, which is jointly funding the effort with the United States Forest Service’s international program. Norway hopes to see whether such a database is feasible in places like Indonesia and Peru, where illegal logging is rampant.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) today announced its decision to immediately disassociate from the Austrian timber giant Holzindustrie Schweighofer (Schweighofer), one of its largest members, due to the company’s persistent and indiscriminate sourcing of illegal timber in Romania. The decision follows a year-long investigation by an FSC Expert Panel, which concluded that Schweighofer had created a business “culture” favoring cheap wood over legal wood in its Romanian sourcing.
a combination of political instability, government mismanagement, a lack of forest operation controls and a failure to impose punitive penalties on well-known traffickers contributed to what was effectively zero control over the management of precious timber resources in Madagascar between March 2010 to March 2015, according to a new TRAFFIC study released today.
At least 350,000 trees were illegally felled inside protected areas and at least 150,000 tonnes of logs illegally exported to destinations including China, Malaysia and Mauritius over the five-year period, according to the study: Timber Island: The Rosewood and Ebony Trade of Madagascar.
The lack of regulation was compounded by additional factors including widespread poverty, corruption, poor species identification skills at point of harvest and deficient knowledge about timber resources and led to rampant, unregulated felling of precious timber species.
By Marion Ali, Assistant Editor
People who engage in harvesting Rosewood will face harsher penalties shortly, after the Ministry of Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development seeks to ask the House of Representatives to introduce amendments to the Forest Act.
The request for the change follows the latest incident where a stash of illegally cut Rosewood was discovered and seized. The offender was charged and taken to court, but the maximum penalty for the offense under existing laws, is only $1,000.
This is a far cry from what the fines should be, the Ministry feels, and in a press release on Wednesday, informed it would seek for more severe penalties for forest crimes. The Ministry has since begun to revise the penalties and fines for forest offenses.
The international police organization Interpol released a report today that highlights the scale of corruption in the global forestry sector as well as the importance of coordinating law enforcement efforts across national boundaries in order to protect forests.
According to the report, the cost of corruption in the global forestry sector is some $29 billion annually. Bribery is the most common form of forestry corruption, followed by fraud, abuse of office, extortion, cronyism, and nepotism.
“Criminal networks use corruption and the bribery of officials to establish ‘safe passage’ for the illegal movement of timber,” the report states. “Those criminal groups also exploit these routes to transport other illicit goods, such as drugs and firearms.”
A group of conservation scientists and policy makers led by University of Adelaide researchers are calling for global action to combat the illegal timber trade.
They say governments and organisations responsible for protecting wildlife and forests around the world and certification schemes need to “catch up with the science” and put in place policies and frameworks to ensure the legality of timber being logged and traded around the world.
Consumers, too, need to play their part in demanding verification of the origin and legality of the timber items they buy, they say.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-11-global-action-illegal-timber.html#jCp
The EU said last week that Indonesia is the first country to qualify for the licenses. It will mean that traders of goods such as wooden furniture, plywood and paper that earn the certification will find it easier to do business with Europe.